(File photo courtesy of Miti at Walid)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to demolish some 75 business establishments in Coron with illegally-built structures on the water and within the no-build zones.

The establishments were ordered to remove their structures in April 2018 within 30 days, but DENR assistant regional director Vicente Tuddao Jr. said on May 17 that no one paid regard to their directive.

“Lumampas na po ang notice to vacate na inisyu ng department dahil 2018 pa ‘yon. Ang susunod na aksyon sa tulong din ng ating butihing governor (Jose Alvarez) at sa pangunguna ng ating mayor (Ajerico Barracoso), magkakaroon ‘yan ng demolition,” Tuddao said.

Tuddao was in Puerto Princesa City on May 17 to attend an interagency meeting for the rehabilitation and cleanup in El Nido and Coron with local government officials headed by Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez.

He said an estimated 167 businesses in El Nido and 75 in Coron were issued notices to vacate last year for violating Presidential Decree 705 or the Reformed Forestry Code of the Philippines and Presidential Decree 1067 or The Water Code of the Philippines.

Tuddao said in El Nido, 75 of the total figure already removed their structures within the easement zone, but did not say anything about the rest.

“Tuloy-tuloy ito dahil ‘yong mga hindi po umaksyon [na mga commercial establishments] to demolish po ang structures na pumasok sa easement zones. May susunod pang hakbang ang ating gobyerno na maaring mabigyan [sila] ng mas matinding penalty na naaayon sa batas,” he pointed out.

Tuddao added that Governor Alvarez reiterated his support to the DENR’s cleanup and rehabilitation drives in both municipalities by offering the use of the provincial government’s heavy-duty trucks for demolition activities.

He warned that it is better for commercial establishments, especially in Coron, to comply now while they still have time.

“Si Governor Alvarez magpapa-deliver ng mga trucks para sa demolition kaya nga po kapag ‘yan ay natuloy, hinihingian natin ng warning ang mga na-isyuhan ng notice to vacate to please comply with the rule of law,” he said.

Based on the provisions of the Water Code of the Philippines, “banks, rivers, streams, the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire lengths and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas, and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing, and salvage.”

Tuddao pointed out that these easements should be free from any construction because they are “no-build zones.”

He added further that aside from securing the easement zones, the DENR is also focusing on the strict implementation of the Clean Water Act, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and the Hazardous Waste Act.

Last week, the government agency issued cease and desist orders (CDOs) to 10 hotels and restaurants in El Nido for violating Clean Water Act based on a recent report submitted by the Environment Management Bureau (EMB).

“So we have to look into the way these owners and the households are managing their untreated wastewater. Dapat pong pangalagaan natin ang water quality. Dapat po water quality should fall within the acceptable standards under the Clean Water Act,” he said.

The interagency meeting is regularly held to update the members about developments in the cleanup and rehabilitation drives in El Nido and Coron.

Its attendees were representatives of the DENR, EMB, Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the provincial government, and the municipal governments of Coron and El Nido.

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